This is testimony that I gave at a school board meeting last week about an item on the board’s agenda regarding signing a contract with Teach for America, Inc.

I will provide details of that meeting later today because it is important for Seattle to see just how limited “community engagement” goes with our superintendent and the school board and how  little of the democratic process is seen in terms of the action of our superintend and the school board.

To follow was my testimony:

There were five full time openings for teachers as advertised on the SPS web page this morning.

We have four colleges of education here in Seattle between Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University and the  University of Washington and a remaining pool of rifed teachers in our district.

Why are you now considering hiring TFA, Inc. recruits at an additional $4,000 per recruit per year to staff our schools?

The Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University in conjunction with the School of Education at the University of Colorado recently published a study looking at the performance of TFA, Inc. recruits with that of their certified counterparts. They found that “the students of novice TFA teachers performed significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers”.  And in a large-scale Houston study headed by Stanford University, in which the researchers controlled for experience and teachers’ certification status, standard certified teachers consistently outperformed uncertified TFA, Inc. teachers of comparable experience levels in similar settings.

Links to these studies are provided in an e-mail that I sent to you today.

Another relevant piece of information is that a federal appeals panel in California agreed recently with low-income students and community organizations that teachers still in training are not “highly qualified” under federal education law. The effect of that decision is that teachers in training must be fairly spread across classrooms, and parents notified when their student has one of these teachers.

Hiring teachers, particularly for schools in low-income communities can destabilize a community even more. Students bond with their teachers and expect to see them at their school everyday. It provides a sense of continuity and stability that some students might not otherwise have. To bring in young recruits, fresh out of college, provide them with five weeks of “training” and then place them in the most low-performing schools defies logic. Then after two years, when their contract is up, most of these recruits move on, leaving the students and the community behind. This is called churn and is unfair to struggling students who develop bonds with their teachers just to see them leave after two years.

Director Patu, if you are concerned about the quality of teachers in the schools that you represent, then I would suggest that you have the district actively recruit the best and the brightest from our local four colleges of education who are more than willing to make a commitment to those communities over the long haul.

I would also suggest that you consider hiring older professionals such as myself who have the experience not only in terms of what we do professionally but who have also mentored and taught on a volunteer basis. There is a large pool of professionals in the fields of science, engineering and the arts who are semi-retired, unemployed or lightly employed who would love nothing better than to work full-time as teachers, providing additional wisdom, experience and knowledge in the fields of math, science, history and the arts. I am not suggesting displacing any qualified teachers, far from it, but if you are looking at alternative certification, then think farther than Teach for America, Inc. which has simply become an employment agency for charter schools.